Parents have summertime homework to help decide future of school board

Editorial

July 01, 2011

School is most certainly be the last thing in mind for youngsters these days — the school year just ended a couple of weeks ago.

But we hope school enters the minds of parents this month, as the future of the Baltimore County Board of Education might well be determined while classes aren't in session.

This week begins a series of three public hearings designed to gather public input on the issue of the school board's selection process.

A task force formed by the county's delegation to Annapolis — formally dubbed the Task Force on the Selection Process, Accountability and Professionalism of the Baltimore County Board of Education — will host the sessions, beginning July 6, around the county.

Currently, county school board members are appointed by the governor.

But in recent years, the issue has arisen whether members should be elected, perhaps by district; or whether the board should be composed of elected and appointed members — a "hybrid" scenario.

Any change would have to be approved at the state level. You may recall that during this past General Assembly session in Annapolis, the delegation debated various ideas, but couldn't settle on one that had full support.

Hence, the task force, which will meet over the summer, then make recommendations in time for the next General Assembly session in early 2012.

Momentum for change seems to exist. In recent years, there have been issues in which parents, residents and even elected officials have felt little input or influence — from school-use policies and salaries to the controversial Articulated Instruction Module (AIM) student evaluation program.

In the past, we've advocated for a board in which at least some members are elected. Generally, we feel government bodies — especially those that engage a hefty chunk of the county budget — should be accountable to voters.

But whether you agree with that assessment or not, you nevertheless have a critical summertime homework assignment: speak up.

If there is indeed change coming in the summer breeze, the task force needs to hear your voice. The meeting dates for the task force are:

• Wednesday, July 6, Reisterstown Library, 21 Cockeysmill Road, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

• Thursday, July 7, Essex Library, 1110 Eastern Blvd., 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

• Monday, July 25, Towson Library, 320 York Road, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The task force is chaired by state Sen. Kathy Klausmeier and Del. Steve Lafferty.

Klausmeier is also accepting testimony through July 25 — address comments to Baltimore County School Board Task Force, and send email to katherine.klausmeier@senate.state.md.us.

Summer is never the best time for public hearings — people are on vacation, there are social and youth activities and the days simply seem to be filled more readily than other times of the year.

But we hope residents embrace this particular summer "assignment."

For an issue that could shape education for years to come in Baltimore County, apathy simply won't make the grade.

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